Furniture polish is essential for keeping your wooden furniture in good condition and looking its best, but most commercial polishes contain highly toxic ingredients. However it is surprisingly easy (if a bit sticky) to make your own polish from entirely natural ingredients such as beeswax and plant oils.
Beeswax has been used as a polish for wood and a treatment for leather since time immemorial. Not only is it easy to work with, it is also non-toxic, so it is safe to use around children and pets and is also suitable for use on food preparation items and serving utensils.
In order to turn solid beeswax into a polish for furniture, shoes or leather, it needs to be softened by mixing it with a suitable oil. Read on to find out how.
Materials for making beeswax polish
To make about 60g of beeswax polish (ie slightly more than a typical tin of shoe polish) you will need:
40g olive oil
Essential oil (for scent, optional)
This is the basic recipe for beeswax polish, but there are several possible variations which are discussed further at the end of this article.
In addition you will need:
Microwave or bain marie
Heat-proof bowl or jug
Knife, grater or vegetable peeler
Small stirring implement
Small clean jar or container with airtight lid
Method for making beeswax polish
Before you begin, you need to select an appropriate jar to hold your finished polish. We like to use a glass ramekin from a Gu dessert and add a bamboo pudding pot lid, but any lidded jar will work so long as it is relatively shallow (so that you can get at the polish afterwards) and has an airtight lid.
Step 1: Grate the beeswax
Take about 20g of pure beeswax and either grate it or cut it into small pieces. The smaller and more similarly sized the pieces the better, as this ensures that they will melt more quickly and evenly.
If you use a grater, make sure it is one that is easy to clean afterwards. (I made the mistake of using a box grater the first time I worked with beeswax, and that took a lot of cleaning afterwards!) Creating small shavings of beeswax with a vegetable peeler also works well and is easier to clean.
Alternatively, you could use 20g of beeswax beads to save time.
Step 2: Prepare the oil
Measure out 40ml of olive oil and set it to one side. (You'll need to have this ready to use promptly in Step 5.)
Step 3: Choose an appropriate container
Place your beeswax pieces in a microwave-safe bowl or container. We use the same glass ramekins that we keep the polish in afterwards, in order to reduce the number of items that need beeswax cleaning off them later. But if you prefer, you could use a heat-proof jug for melting the beeswax and then decant it into its final container at the end of Step 5.
Step 4: Melt the beeswax
Place the bowl containing the beeswax in the microwave and melt it very gently. We recommend heating the beeswax for one minute at a time, then checking and stirring it before heating it for another minute. Repeat as necessary. Total timings will vary depending on how much polish you are making, the size of the pieces of beeswax and the power of your microwave.
Caution: Beeswax has a relatively low melting point and is also flammable, so do not be tempted to just whack it in the microwave for five minutes and check back later! Go slowly and carefully. Also take great care when removing the beeswax from the microwave once it has melted, as the hot wax can burn you if spilt.
Alternatively, you can melt the beeswax gently in a bain marie instead of using the microwave.
Step 5: Stir in the oil
When the wax has all melted, remove it from the microwave (or bain marie) and briskly stir in the olive oil. Then add a few drops of essential oil (if using) and mix it in. The essential oil is just to add a fragrance to the polish and can be omitted if you prefer. We like to add 6 or 7 drops of lavender essential oil, but other fragrances such as sweet orange oil or lemon oil work well too.
It is important to stir in the olive oil and essential oil as quickly as possibly because the addition of these ingredients will cool the melted wax and the mixture will begin to stiffen and set. Don’t worry if the mixture becomes a little lumpy at this stage. Just pop it back in the microwave for a moment to re-melt so that the surface is smooth, then leave it to set.
Step 6: Seal with an airtight lid
Once fully cooled, add an airtight lid to your jar or container and then you’re all set with your homemade furniture polish. This recipe has no added preservatives, but the polish should keep well for several months in an airtight container.
Variations on the basic polish recipe
This beeswax polish recipe results in a lovely rich polish that is easy to apply with a soft cloth to wooden furniture. It is also suitable for leather, but if you prefer a slightly softer polish for this, you can increase the ratio of oil to beeswax a little, up to 3 parts oil to 1 part beeswax (eg 45ml oil to 15g beeswax).
Instead of olive oil you could use jojoba oil, coconut oil, food grade linseed oil or hazelnut oil (but avoid this last one if you have any nut allergy sufferers in the house).
To help extend the life of the polish you can add up to 10 drops of an antioxidant oil, such as Vitamin E.